Budapest, the capital of Hungary is located on the Danube river in Eastern Europe. It is comprised of the hilly Buda district on the west bank and the flat Pest district on the east bank of the river. It has a rich history dating back thousands of years. Budapest is a UNESCO World Heritage site and known as the Paris of the East as all the buildings sparkle and shine at night. We recently used American Airlines miles to fly to Budapest (22,500-30,000 miles in economy each way) and explore the fabulous city. Here is our recommendations on places to stay, things to do and where to eat!
Lodging in Budapest is very reasonably priced. We rented an AirBnB right on Erzsébet Square in the center of town for less than $100 per night. If you haven’t tried Airbnb yet, sign up here and get $25 off your first stay. There are many hotels available to use points at as well such as the Four Seasons, Hilton and Intercontinental. We found the best area to stay in is on the Pest side near the chain bridge and Erzsébet Square. The Pest side is much more lively and within walking distance to all the sites.
We started off our trip with a free walking tour which I highly recommend. We always try to do a free walking tour the first day we arrive so we can get a better understanding of the city we’re visiting and this one was one of the best! Our guide gave us the history of Budapest as well as pointed out all the sites and recommended restaurants and food to try. Then it was off to see the sites and experience everything Budapest had to offer!
Must do activities include:
- St. Stephen’s Basilica- make sure to climb the dome for great views (it costs a few dollars but is definitely worth it) .
- Chain Bridge- walk across the famous bridge which crosses the Danube and links Buda to Pest.
- Buda Castle- wait in a line for the funicular or climb the steps up (i promise it’s not that bad) and admire Buda Castle, which is now home to the Budapest History Museum.
- St. Matthias Church- check out the beautiful church complete with gargoyles and a colorful ceramic tile roof.
- Fisherman’s Bastion- take in breathtaking panoramic views of the city from the fairy tale towers.
- Szechenyi baths- make a splash at the largest medicinal bath in Europe with its water supplied by thermal springs (it cured our achy legs). It is a fairly long walk from the center of town so take an Uber. Admission price includes lockers to hold your belongings.
- Parliament- magnificent neo-gothic building that is the seat of the National Assembly of Hungary. Every hour on the hour you can experience the changing of the guards.
- Shoes on the Danube- memorial to the Jews who were shot and killed in Budapest during World War II
- Great Market Hall- largest indoor market in Budapest selling a variety of fruits, vegetables, meats, spices and crafts. Head upstairs where they have food vendors and try some authentic Hungarian foods such as langos (deep fried flatbread with sour cream and cheese). This is also a great place to get souvenirs to bring home.
- Ruin Pubs- located in the Old Jewish Quarter these bars and restaurants are the place to go for a fun night out. After the war, buildings in this area were abandoned and left in ruins until recently when they were made into pubs.
- Lastly, don’t forget to experience Budapest by night. The city of lights is spectacular at night. Head to the Danube to see all the sites lit up, you will be amazed!
Our favorite bars and restaurants include:
- Cserpes Tejivo- start off your day at this cute little breakfast spot serving up pastries and gourmet coffees (coffee in Europe is fabulous).
- Kőleves Kert- unique and fun place for a casual lunch in the Jewish Quarter. Outdoor seating only and you must order at the bar. Take your pick of many jewish favorites like potato pancakes. Cheap prices and delicious food!
- Lugas- the best Hungarian food we had was at this traditional restaurant. You feel as if you are in a locals home. Make sure to try the chicken paprikash and deer meat stew.
- Mazel Tov- located in the Jewish Quarter, the atmosphere here cannot be beat! Sit under the patio lights and enjoy the live music. This is a great place to grab dinner or cocktails before heading out to the ruin pubs.
- Gelarto Rosa- gelato is must when in Europe and this is the place to get it! They even make your gelato in the shape of a rose 🙂
- Fröccsterasz- this open air bar located in Erzsébet Square is a great spot to enjoy an afternoon wine spritzer (the drink of choice in Budapest).
- Szimpla Kert- the first and best ruin pub in Budapest. This quirky place is huge and full of nic nacs everywhere. The place is usually packed at night and with a bar around every corner you are sure to have a great time!
- Lastly, don’t forget to try the palinka (Hungarian fruit brandy). Just keep in mind that It’s served as a shot. We gave our server quite a laugh when we unknowingly ordered it before dinner!
What are you waiting for…put your points to good use and plan a trip to Budapest!